How two care experienced sisters shot for the moon with their very own fashion brand.
This Christmas, The Fostering Network is delighted to be collaborating with Wexbaby, a clothing line that uses fun art concepts to put a smile on children’s faces. Founders Ettie and Sally Wexsteen speak about their experiences in foster care and how they made their dreams come true.
What was the main inspiration behind Wex Baby?
I (Ettie) have always been a keen follower of fashion and studied promotion and styling at university. After I graduated I worked for a series of fashion retailers including a wholesalers and eventually became an assistant buyer for a major British highstreet brand.
While I was there, I got a real taste of the industry and realised that there was a huge gap in the market for bespoke, handmade children’s clothes.
Combining my fashion experience with my sister Sally’s illustrations, we decided to make a few tops and see how they did and - voila! - Wex Baby was born!
I quit my job to do this full time and I’ve never been happier or more stressed!
Can you describe your experience growing up in foster care?
Being a looked after child is tough. Irrespective of how incredible your foster parents are it’s never the same as growing up with your own family.
It’s always a challenge explaining your circumstances to school friends, with everyone comparing you to little orphan Annie or assuming that because you’re a foster child, you are automatically a “bad kid”.
On the flip side, being fostered by such indescribably amazing people changed our lives for the better. They spoiled us and gave us the closest thing to a normal life as was possible.
With the right foster carers it might not be your biological family but it can be your home.
What difference did being in foster care make to you?
You lose a part of yourself when you have to go and live with people who are fundamentally complete strangers. With the right support you can fill that void with other things and I think that’s what drove us to succeed.
We craved normality and the best way to do that was to try and keep up with everyone else around us of our age. So we went to school, tried our best, went to university and got good jobs.
I feel we appreciate each other more, which means we love each other and always stick up for one another.
What challenges did you face being in foster care?
There is a stigma there. People probe and try to find out if you were abused or badly treated.
Our experience was relatively painless though compared to what other children go through - and that’s down to our foster carers.
Being apart from our mother was hard but we were granted contact when possible and our carers encouraged us to keep strong ties with our biological family in France, which is why our clothing line is inspired by Paris, where the Wexsteens all live.
What are your fondest memories of being in foster care?
Our foster carers made us a part of their family right from the start and we were never treated differently from their own children.
Bike rides with the whole family, Christmas and being spoiled on our birthdays, singing Meat Loaf in the car, just to name a few fond memories.
We also went Paris three times a year where we visited our biological grandparents and, on a few occasions, our foster carers came with us!
We all became one big family and our foster carers always encouraged us to retain a strong relationship with our birth parents.
Was it easier being together?
I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we’d been separated. We were lucky to have only been placed with one couple, who eventually looked after us long term.
What advice would you give to children currently in foster care?
Even though things may seem really bleak, you are not alone and whatever has happened to you doesn’t have to shape who you become.
Your childhood, however important, is the shortest stage of your life and you have the rest of it to make up for how difficult the start was.
You can be absolutely anything you want to be and the fact that your jumping off point was rocky only makes for a more satisfying feeling when you can say ‘yes, look at me, I made it. I survived.’
What would you say to people that want to become foster carers?
Kids in care don’t just need a roof over their head and they don’t necessarily need a new mum and dad, but they do need a friend who will have their back and be patient and understand how hard it is for them.
If you can give someone that stability and non-judgmental support, you can literally shape the rest of a child’s life.
Our foster carers will tell you that it wasn’t always a smooth ride, but taking us on was the best decision they could have made, and they are so proud to be our parents.
Why did you choose to collaborate with The Fostering Network this Christmas?
We’ve collaborated with other organisations, specifically homeless charities, and when we were approached by The Fostering Network we thought ‘how fitting’.
Children in care is such an important and yet often overlooked social issue. We also thought it was a great opportunity to reach out to other kids and carers.
Will you be starting a line for adults anytime soon?
We plan to start an adults’ range hopefully in January. We have had so many requests, which is great because our designs can be used for any age range.
Was your La Lune design inspired by Georges Méliès?
Now that you mention it, I can’t believe that never crossed my mind before!
Indirectly, I suppose it may have done as I am very familiar with ‘To the moon and back’ and love Georges Méliès’ work.
The beauty of Pepe is he can be incorporated into almost everything, which will become more evident as future collections emerge.
You can check out Ettie and Sally’s beautiful line of children’s clothing on their website, www.wexbaby.co.uk